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For successful content marketing, focus on authority over SEO

Building authority continues to be critical in search engine results, regardless of the fall of Google’s semantic authorship markup. Optimizing your meta data, headlines and being on top of trending keywords helps your news content rank. No question about that. But quality content conveying expertise, authority and trust plays a key role in gaining positive organic search results.

“Authoritative authors tend to do better in search because their content generates the kind of responses that lead to actual, present-day search signals,” says Mark Traphagen, senior director at Stone Temple Consulting and a Google+ expert.

Whether or not search engines continue to evolve and incorporate author credibility as a ranking factor, authority and influencer tools enable brand publishers to have even more control over the quality and credibility of their content.

Your goal as a marketing or public relations professional is no longer to have SEO-heavy content on your brand’s newsroom, website or blog. Today’s goal is more about increasing the amount of powerful and magnetic content on your site while following optimization best practices and finding the right authors to create that content.

Authorship: modern-day public relations

However, the archaic rules of yesterday that resulted in drab titles, flat copy and trite themes no longer apply. What’s current, what’s now and what can move the needle on your public relations news and marketing content clout in a positive direction is subject matter authority — both the technical and human aspects of it.

At the core of any public relations framework should be the creation of newsworthy, relevant content that’s leveraged on every level to reach the right audience, and subject matter experts, authority and influence should be part of that equation. Once you have authorship integrated into your brand’s publishing strategy, the next step is to find influential writers to contribute to your branded content who understand and have authorship established on their ends.

Sourcing the right authors to write

The goal of most brand publishers is to have journalist-quality authors (in-house and external) who are subject matter experts in your industry. Your team of writers must lead visitors through a path to conversion through their compelling, unique content.

Finding contributors with content authority is invaluable for your brand. But, the question remains: How do you vet the authors?

Through leveraging trusty influencer tools like Klout (social-based), BuzzSumo, Inkybee (blog-based), or sourcing authors the old-fashioned way at industry events, you can certainly find the right voices for your brand’s content.

The social tie-in

Influential content creators often boast a strong social follower base and have a tribe of evangelists. When influencers share content, it resonates with more people and in more relevant circles, and that tribe of followers is more apt to promote the author’s content. This in turn turns more heads toward your content and brand.

The search tie-in

The content that authoritative authors produce is more relevant, timely and intelligent — key components of content that appears high in Google search results.

“Even without Google Authorship or any actual Author Rank as search factors, authoritative authors tend to do better in search because their content generates the kind of responses that lead to actual, present-day search signals. For example, an article by a trusted author is going to be more widely shared on social media. That leads to more visibility and exposure to new eyeballs. Inevitably some of those eyeballs will belong to other content producers who will link to the authority’s content, and those links produce real search traffic,” Traphagen reported in a recent interview.

In light of the retraction of Authorship announcement, Google says that the dropping of Authorship won’t impact other efforts to explore how authors are identified and rewarded within their search algorithm.

“Google may have (or is certainly developing) other ways to determine who it believes to be the author of a story,” notes Traphagen. “This includes comparing the byline to semantic and linguistic cues in the content. For example, If an article says it’s by Chris Brogan, and the writing style, vocabulary, subject matter, type of site it appears on and sources of links to it, all match well with other pieces written by Chris, Google may decide they have high confidence the content is written by Chris Brogan.”

Bylines may be a key signal to Author Rank moving forward. More importantly, content quality will be the biggest contributor of search strength. While Google will continue to tweak their search algorithms, the goal of marketing and public relations content creators should focus on carving out a niche and authoring outstanding content.

The bottom line: Subject matter expert content creators will have the best real estate on Google, leading to better brand awareness, website traffic and conversions.